My Experience Working on the Gender Equality Focal Team with UNDP Rwanda
By Isabella Grajczyk
Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.
Image 1: JPC Isabella Grajczyk
I have been working as a Junior Professional Consultant with the United Nations Development Programme Rwanda through the International Youth Internship Programme (IYIP) with UNA-Canada. I discovered the internship programme a few years ago when I first got involved with UNA-Canada. Ever since then, I kept my eye on the website as I hoped that one day, I would be able to take part in this exciting opportunity. In September 2022, my dreams became a reality, and I was offered a position with UNDP Rwanda to work on their gender equality focal team.
I am a recent graduate from the University of Regina with an honours degree in International Studies. I also hold degrees in English and Education, which have contributed to my skills as a writer, researcher, and educator. I did my honours thesis on the interconnectedness of gender, education, and development, which has proven to be very useful knowledge while working with UNDP Rwanda. While my work is virtual, I am fortunate to be on a team of passionate, hardworking individuals who are able to support me from afar. My supervisor even tries to bring some of our meetings outside so that I am able to enjoy the outdoors of Kigali, despite my being located in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. My position is focused on gender equality, and I am an active member of the gender focal team. We have frequent meetings to discuss training sessions, the gender seal recertification process, and the overarching goals of UNDP Rwanda.
Image 2: UN Rwanda Logo
I have worked on many tasks since the start of my position but there are two that really stand out to me. The first is when I took a lead role in writing the 2022-2025 gender equality strategy for UNDP Rwanda. This task felt like a huge responsibility, and I was a bit intimidated at first, but I was offered support throughout the process which made it a far less stressful experience. Drafting up the 2022-2025 gender equality strategy was an important aspect of UNDP Rwanda’s gender seal recertification process, and I was proud to contribute such a valuable document. The strategy included key goals for UNDP Rwanda, the impact of COVID-19, and the ways in which the goals could be reached. Many of the goals stayed consistent with the previous iteration of the gender equality strategy, but the statistics and current progress in Rwanda had to be updated. Finding this information was interesting and allowed me to really expand my knowledge of the current systems in place in the country. The impact of COVID-19 was by far the largest addition to the gender equality strategy. When the previous version had been written, it was 2019 and COVID-19 was merely unknowingly on the horizon. As such, the new version that I was writing had to acknowledge the pandemic and its effects in a completely new way. The addition of ‘crisis’ as a large-scale factor in gender equality was interesting to write about and very pressing considering the changes the pandemic has created.
The second task that I have been enjoying is the creation of a training session for the entirety of the UNDP Rwanda country office. My supervisor felt that given my education and experience, I would be a good fit to lead a training session on sexual harassment in the workplace. As such, I am currently putting together a one-hour-long interactive session that I will present in the coming weeks to my colleagues. I am looking forward to this experience and I hope to further develop my public speaking skills throughout this process. I previously worked as a grade nine teacher in a local Saskatchewan high school where I taught sex education. Through that experience, I found a number of great resources that I am able to adapt to this adult audience and use in my presentation. It is exciting to be treated as an expert, despite being an intern, and I am so grateful that my supervisors want to give me opportunities to learn and grow in this environment. I am learning a lot about myself throughout this position and what I am capable of. The experiences I am having now will allow me to be better equipped as I venture out into the workforce after I complete my master's program.
Image 3: 2022-2025 Gender Equality Strategy for UNDP Rwanda
As for my career objectives, I am hoping this experience will kickstart my career working in gender equality. I am applying for master's programs for next fall, and I hope to build on the knowledge that I have gained from my experience with UNDP Rwanda to strengthen my thesis. I am planning to write my thesis on the impact of the crisis on gender mainstreaming initiatives in Rwanda and my experience and connections that I have made throughout my time as a JPC will be incredibly helpful as I work on my thesis. My time with UNDP Rwanda has been valuable and inspiring and I am looking forward to going out into the workforce with an invigorated passion for gender equality and the desire to work towards something bigger than myself.